Travel just over three hours by road from Kolkata and you can step into a picture-postcard landscape far removed from the urban chaos. An early morning drive, about 30km beyond busy Joynagar, takes you to the surprising and lesser-explored destination of Kaikhali (or Kaikhalidwip). What greets you here is a mesmerising blue horizon, meeting the green borders of a tiger reserve.
This travel destination on the banks of the Matla river, on the periphery of the Sunderbans, has become popular in recent times thanks to some riverside resorts offering a comfortable stay and views of the river. Kaikhali is perfect for travellers looking to sit back, watch fishing boats sail by and listen to birdsong.
Visitors can bask in the tranquil scenes of life along the Matla, away from the bustle of cityRumela Basu
This place is part of the world’s biggest delta and is blessed with rare indigeouns flora and fauna. There’s serenity and a sense of solitude in the air — deep mangrove forests cover the riverbanks and the muddy water, stretching about two-kilometres wide between Kaikhali and Jharkhali, flows slow and steady.
Worship and wander
The settlement of Kaikhali started when nomadic fisherfolk’s families settled here after struggles with repatriation. On a walk inside the fishermen’s hamlet, you can witness the daily lives of the people living in this geographically difficult and economically under-developed zone.
The Ramkrishna temple, established by the Sri Ramkrishna Ashram, is a peaceful spot in KaikhaliSomen Sengupta
The area remained underdeveloped and almost beyond reach for decades until welfare work began under the joint initiative of the government and Sri Ramkrishna Ashram, a socio-religious organisation founded in 1960 by Swami Budhanandaji Maharaj. The organisation, separate from the Ramakrishna Mission of Belur, runs several welfare projects including an agricultural centre.
A beautiful Ramkrishna temple, open to all, stands in a beautiful green compound in Kaikhali. Take a walk along the beaten tracks and bending meadows after your prayers to witness the beauty of Bengal’s verdant rural landscape.
A boat ride on the Matla
A popular activity for visitors to Kaikhali is taking a ferry ride on the Matla river to Jharkhali and beyondRumela Basu
A little way inside the village, the river is vast and calm. On the other side of the river is Jharkhali, the entry point of the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve and the location of the region’s tiger rescue and rehabilitation centre.
A boat ride on the Matla to Jharkhali and beyond is the most common activity for travellers visiting Kaikhali. Witnessing the sun set over the mangroves from a boat is the most precious takeaway from this tour.
As twilight advances, the green borderline turns black and the azure sky is awash with warm shades of orange. The sun slowly sets in the horizon, behind other passing boats and the gentle waves slosh against the edge of the bank, creating a surreal moment.
Witnessing the sun set over the mangrove forests from a boat is one of the magical takeaways from a trip to KaikhaliSomen Sengupta
River views and birdsong
The Kaikhali tourist lodge run by Ramkrishna Ashram, locally known as Nimpith Ashram, is a good option for lodging. It is one of the properties that overlooks the river and the forest. While creature comforts are moderate, the views from the balcony and terrace more than make up for the lack of luxury.
A stay at the riverside properties at Kaikhali offers beautiful rivers viewsSomen Sengupta
If you’re looking for options with a few more creature comforts along with the views, Kaikhali Farm Stay is a popular choice. It is located just about 100m from the bank of the river and offers all modern amenities.
A paradise for bird and butterfly watchers, Kaikhali is majestic at both twilight and early morning, when the sun’s light slowly spreads.
But global warming has been taking a toll on this land. The rise in sea level is higher here than in other parts and a few islands have already submerged. As the water advances every year, the signs of an impending catastrophe are evident and will only subside when policy-makers and government officials wake up to this grave threat.
The Sunderbans' mangrove forests are being submerged by the rapid rise in sea levelsSomen Sengupta
- Kaikhali is about 80km from Kolkata by road. The nearest railway station is Joynagar-Majilpur.
- When driving, it is advisable to start early to avoid traffic. Head towards Baruipur and take the Joynagar road, drive about 50km to Jamtala. At Jamtala, locals can direct you to the Kaikhali tourist lodge.
- It is advisable to stay overnight at Kaikhali to really enjoy the destination but a day trip is also possible.
- Permission to stay at the Kaikhali tourist lodge (Nimpith Ashram) must be obtained from the Nimpith Ashram Maharaj, Nimpith, Joynagar Majilpur. Bookings cannot be done through the WBTDC website.
- The Kaikhali lodge is a good budget option and guests are expected to be disciplined. Consumption of alcohol and any other intoxicants is strictly prohibited.
- Motorised boats and ferries are available for rides. Negotiate with your boatman for the cost.
- Visitors can also take a tour of Sagar Island while staying in Kaikhali.
Somen Sengupta is passionate about heritage and travelling and has been writing about it for 26 years. When he is not executing duties as a senior executive in an MNC, he keeps an eye out for intriguing historical trivia and unearths forgotten stories. This also makes him an avid quizzer.